December 2, 2023

Recent developments:

Today is the last day of Quebec’s mandatory mask mandate. That province is ending most of its masking rules on Saturday.

Its interim public health director is encouraged by current trends and wants to clarify that while all adults can get a fourth vaccine dose (or a second booster) after at least three months have passed since their last one, they are only recommended for specific groups who are at high risk of getting severe COVID.

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health says COVID-19 indicators are heading in the right direction ahead of what looks to be a “calm summer.” Risks increase in fall, said Dr. Kieran Moore, and variants can always change the picture.

Ottawa Public Health says dropping trends haven’t brought the city out of the sixth wave.

Some Ottawa non-profits say they survived major financial hits, depleted resources and dwindling numbers of volunteers as a “forgotten” sector during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the local community’s support is what kept them afloat. 

What are the numbers to watch?

Testing strategies have changed under the contagious Omicron variant and many people with COVID-19 aren’t reflected in case counts. Hospitalization numbers and the wastewater signal offer additional data that can help fill in the picture.

There’s more information in our daily story on key numbers.


The average level of coronavirus detected in Ottawa’s wastewater has been slowly dropping for about three weeks and is about five-and-a half times higher than it was before the mid-March spike.

There were 21 Ottawa residents in local hospitals for treatment of active COVID-19 as of Friday’s OPH report. One needed intensive care.

Ottawa has had 72,643 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 793 residents have died from the illness.

The wider region

Western Quebec has about 80 COVID hospital patients, including those no longer considered an active case. Two are in intensive care.

Eastern Ontario outside of Ottawa has about 50 COVID-19 hospitalizations. About 10 of those patients need intensive care. These numbers don’t include Hastings Prince Edward Public Health, which has a different way of counting patients.

Wastewater levels in the Kingston area are slowly dropping and sites in Leeds, Grenville and Lanark counties are stable. Data from east of Ottawa is mixed, with Casselman levels rising.

Eastern Ontario has the highest regional wastewater average in the province, according to the science table.

In the rest of eastern Ontario, 491 people with COVID-19 have died. The death toll is 310 in western Quebec.

More than 5.3 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered to people in the Ottawa-Gatineau region.

Rates of eligible eastern Ontarians with at least two vaccine doses range from 81 to 92 per cent; adults with a third dose range from 59 to 71 per cent.

Quebec considers about 78 per cent of Outaouais residents to be “adequately vaccinated,” which is a combination of vaccination and recent infection.

How can I manage risk?

COVID-19 spreads through droplets that can hang in the air. People can be contagious without symptoms, including after getting a vaccine.

The dominant Omicron BA.2 subvariant is more contagious, but generally less deadly for vaccinated people without underlying conditions.

This level of spread puts vulnerable people at risk and can make covering for isolating staff a challenge.

Officials say people need to take personal responsibility as government rules transition to recommendations.

They’re urging people to get all vaccine doses they’re eligible for — especially if they’re over 50 — stay home when sick, wear medical masks in crowded and indoor spaces, keep their hands clean, distance, see others outdoors and limit close contacts, while also taking community spread and vaccine rates in the area into account.

People look out over the Ottawa River from parc Brébeuf in Gatineau, Que., May 8, 2022. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

What are the rules?

There are no provincial vaccination requirements or capacity limits in Ontario and Quebec. 

Masks are only mandatory in certain indoor settings in Ontario. Ontario’s COVID-19 rules have been extended until at least June 11.

Quebec ends most mask mandates tomorrow. They’ll remain mandatory in places such as health-care settings and on public transit.

Some places may choose to continue requiring people wear masks, be vaccinated or both. Mask rules may be different in places that fall under different jurisdictions, like the Ottawa airport.

Ontario and Quebec isolation rules have loosened for some close contacts.


Travellers older than 12 years and four months must be fully vaccinated to board a plane or train in Canada. People age six and over have to wear masks.

People have to be fully vaccinated, pre-approved and asymptomatic to enter Canada without quarantining.

The U.S. requires all adults crossing a border to be fully vaccinated. People flying there will need proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test or recent COVID recovery.

Travellers who need a test have local options to pay for one.


Vaccines curb the spread of all variants of COVID-19 and go a long way toward avoiding deaths and hospitalizations without offering total protection.

Six COVID-19 vaccines are safe and approved in Canada, with some age restrictions. Moderna has applied to Health Canada for approval of its vaccine for children as young as six months old.

Eastern Ontario

Eligible people can look for provincial appointments online or by phone at 1-833-943-3900.

Adults can book third shots once 84 days have passed since their second. Third doses are available for ages 12 to 17 after 168 days.

Fourth doses are being offered to everyone age 60 and above and select groups. The recommended time after a third dose varies.

Check local health unit websites for clinics and any locally specific rules. Some pharmacies and family doctors offer vaccines through their own booking systems.

Western Quebec

Eligible residents can get an appointment online by calling 1-877-644-4545. There are also walk-in clinics.

Everyone age 12 and up is eligible for a third dose; the general recommended wait time after a second is three months.

Fourth doses are available for everyone age 18 and up. They are recommended for higher-risk groups.

Symptoms, treatment and testing

COVID-19 can range from a cold-like illness to a severe lung infection, with common symptoms including fever, a cough, headache, fatigue and vomiting. If you have severe symptoms, call 911.

“Long COVID” symptoms can last for months.

Mental health can also be affected by the pandemic and resources are available to help.

Ontario and Quebec are using antiviral treatments on select groups of people with a higher risk risk of severe COVID-19 problems. Some have to start within a certain period of developing symptoms, some are preventative.

Quebec is giving the Paxlovid pill for free at pharmacies with a medical professional’s referral.

Ontario’s eligibility includes everyone age 70 and over. Its health-care providers can prescribe them and pharmacies are able to give Paxlovid alongside clinical assessment centres, where people can get a test and treatment.


Ontario and Quebec have limited laboratory-checked PCR tests to people at higher risk due to the demand generated by Omicron.

Ontario expanded this in April to everyone age 70 and over and immunocompromised adults, for example.

Qualified people can check with their health authority for locations and hours. Other people with symptoms should assume they have COVID-19 and isolate.

Both provinces are giving rapid tests away at participating stores and child-care settings. People can also buy them. People in Quebec can report rapid test results online.

First Nations, Inuit and Métis

Indigenous people, or someone travelling to work in a remote Indigenous community, are eligible for a PCR test in both Ontario and Quebec.

Inuit in Ottawa can call the Akausivik Inuit Family Health Team at 613-740-0999 on weekdays for testing and vaccines in Inuktitut or English.

Akwesasne has COVID-19, test and vaccine information online or at 613-575-2341. Its mask mandate now matches the June 11 Ontario date. Nineteen residents have died between its north and south sections and about 2,000 residents had tested positive until April 2022, when its northern section stopped sharing a total.

People in Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg can get rapid tests are available at the health centre, which is no longer giving PCR tesrs. It had more than 175 confirmed cases and one death as of mid-January.

Pikwàkanagàn referrs people to its health-care services for COVID help. The community didn’t have any confirmed COVID-19 cases until December 2021; it had 114 confirmed cases as of March 11.

Anyone who’s interested in a PCR test or vaccine from the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte can call 613-967-3603, rapid tests are available at the wellbeing centre on weekdays. It has two deaths and 91 confirmed cases until it stopped sharing its count in January 2022.


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